This year’s World Intellectual Property Day focuses on movies

Intellectual Property Management

World Intellectual Property Day is a celebration put on by the World Intellectual Property Organization each year on April 26. This year, the theme is "Moves – A Global Passion." There will be a World Intellectual Property Day film festival in Geneva, and many similar events across the globe.

"Movies are also a direct product of intellectual property," WIPO Director General Francis Curry wrote in his message about this year's theme. "Think about how a film is made. You start with a script, which is the intellectual property of an author or screenwriter. Then there are the actors, whose performances are their intellectual property. Then there is music, in which the composers and the performers have IP. Numerous players contribute to creating a film, and to enabling us to watch it as a seamless performance, woven from a multiplicity of intellectual property."

Aside from film festivals, WIPO encourages member countries to host discussions on the importance of intellectual property in the film industry, and how it works in general and in particular cases. From copyrighting an initial idea to trademarking a film's elements for merchandising, intellectual property plays a role in every aspect of film production.

Candy Crush Saga company resolves two trademark fights

Intellectual Property Management

Mobile game developer King recently resolved two trademark suits it had with other game developers, according to Morning News USA. It has ended its battles with the makers of The Banner Saga and CandySwipe.

King filed a trademark for the term "saga" as it pertains to video games, which was approved by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in January. Subsequently, the maker of The Banner Saga found itself in dispute with King. The companies signed a deal acknowledging the word "saga" belongs rightfully to King, but the deal allows The Banner Saga to keep using the term, according to Morning News USA.

King has also filed a trademark for the word "candy" in games, and immediately began a dispute with CandySwipe. CandySwipe objected, stating it had created the game before the existence of Candy Crush Saga. However, King bought the intellectual property rights to a game called Candy Crusher, which was created before CandySwipe. Therefore, CandySwipe conceded, but opined both games could continue to be marketed without engendering confusion among consumers, according to Morning News USA.

King said in a statement it has a legal obligation to protect its intellectual property, and reiterated these disputes are not acts of aggression but of trademark protection.

Intellectual property ownership and business relationships

Intellectual Property Management

According to The New York Times, employers increasingly own their employees' intellectual property. Now more than ever, companies and universities are winding up as assignees of the inventions of their workers. Indeed, employment agreements increasingly give businesses rights to skills, ideas and even professional contacts, which cannot be protected under traditional intellectual property law.

America has no legal requirements about compensation for intellectual property from employer to employee, the Times notes, unlike other innovative countries like Germany, Finland, Japan and China, which all require a business to pay an employee who assigns an invention to them, whether as a condition of employment or not.

Sometimes, these demands on intellectual property extend to their logical but absurd conclusions. A 2004 lawsuit resulted in a Texas court ordering that a former Alcatel employee give the company a software algorithm that existed solely and completely in his own mind. It was an idea in progress, too incomplete to patent, but the court found Alcatel owned this notion.

Employees and employers alike need to give serious consideration to who owns what intellectual property. Employment agreements are important in settling this question, so both parties should be thoroughly aware of what they contain. However, some ownership disputes may differ on a case-by-case basis – for this reason, inventors and creative professionals and those businesses that employ them need to discuss and prepare for a variety of scenarios.

Massive open online courses raise intellectual property questions

Intellectual Property Management

Massive open online courses (MOOCs) are becoming increasingly popular at universities around the world. Who owns the intellectual property rights to the course material for MOOCs remains an important question in many cases. Whether the university hosting the course owns it or the original author of the curriculum does seems to depend largely on individual university policy.

Recently, English professor Cathy Davidson left Duke University to work at City University of New York. This career move raised questions about what should be done with the rights to the MOOC she created while teaching at Duke. The course, called "History and Future of (Mostly) Higher Education," was given by the Intellectual Property Board, one of the Provost's committees, to Davidson. This decision was based on online course and intellectual property policies at the university that were created in 2000.

"The revisions in 2000 were drafted with an eye for online education," Laurence Helfer, the Harry S. Chadwick professor of law at Duke's Law School, commented. "[Duke] didn't know what it would look like, but the directors knew it was coming. [The policy] is efficiently broad and has flexible language so that it can be applied to the types of MOOCs that are offered today."

Different universities and course authors have come to different agreements on the intellectual property status of MOOCs, and the question continues to evolve, according to Times Higher Education. 

Does the US Sanctions Program impact your intellectual property?

Intellectual Property Management

The U.S. has a set of laws and regulations imposing sanctions against particular countries, entities and individuals for a variety of reasons. Collectively, these are known as the U.S. Sanctions Program, managed by the Office of Foreign Assets Control. A sanction prohibits U.S. nationals and companies from doing business with those countries or entities that are subject to a sanction. Penalties for violating them range from criminal fines to imprisonment, according to The National Law Review.

However, it is important to know that the current U.S. Sanctions Program does allow intellectual property owners to file applications for patents, trademarks, copyrights and so on in countries that are under sanction, The National Law Review said. It is also generally lawful for intellectual property holders to receive said protection, and to review it as necessary. Infringement lawsuits are usually permitted, as is the payment of any intellectual property fees to the government as well as to attorneys and representatives in a sanctioned country, according to the publication. Presently, the Office of Foreign Assets Control allows some degree of intellectual property protection activity in all sanctioned countries but North Korea, which intellectual property owners must obtain a Specific License to undertake any kind of activity in.